Warning to lift Olympic sports funding or expect fewer medals

Carroll’s address to the National Press Club came hours after the federal government committed an extra $50 million for sports ahead of next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

That funding commitment followed a letter signed by former sporting greats run in newspaper advertisements on Wednesday pleading for more money for Olympic sports.

Carroll welcomed the new funding but said it was a late one-off cash injection that would help for the Tokyo games but the sport needed an ongoing commitment. He stressed the increased funding was not for the AOC but would go directly to the Olympic sports and athletes.

“You cannot invest in sport for a year, it’s a 10-year investment,” he said.

“In the scheme of the federal budgets of some $488 billion ($60 million) is not a large amount of money.”

Carroll tied the increased funding to the obesity crisis in Australia saying the annual investment would have a bigger impact on obesity through improved sport participation rates than any one off obesity campaigns, which would cost the same amount.

An inter-generational report had estimated obesity will cost Australia $88 billion in the next 10 years.

“The investment by government in sport is no different to investment in any industry – the dividends are different but no less important. For the economy, for the country and I would suggest more important.

Without more funding, Australians will only know of great Olympians, such as Cathy Freeman, from the past.Credit:Rick Stevens

He quoted independent research, which said sport contributed the equivalent of 2 to 3 per cent of GDP and thus had a return of about $5 for every $1 invested.

Carroll said the focus of the AOC was increasingly on participation leading to elite performance and that no medal target would be set for the Tokyo Games.

The only gold medal will be the race to be the most obese nation . . .

Matt Carroll, AOC

State governments were praised for investing in sport, but that had primarily been the billions spent on building stadia for the five wealthy professional codes and this only further squeezed Olympic sports.

“Well done to them, but three of the five codes now have combined annual revenues in excess of $1.5 billion. They are out-spending the federal government by about three to one on their participation and talent pathway programs to what the government spends on Olympic sports,” he said.

“This means those professional sports are dominating the market. They are making it hard for the Olympic sports to compete for participants, elite talent, staffing and sponsorship money.”

He said 8.8 million Australians participate in Olympic sports and the Olympics remain a ratings hit for broadcasters.

“This once-great sporting nation so proud of its diversity and punching above its weight will be confined to a few sports played by only a few and the rest [will be] faded pictures of past heroes,” he said.

The AIS had gone from being a world leader when it was first established but due to funding neglect it had become second rate.

He said that Brisbane should seriously consider bidding for the 2032 Games because the venues were in place and only required transport infrastructure spending.

Michael Gleeson is a senior AFL football writer and Fairfax Media’s athletics writer. He also covers tennis, cricket and other sports. He won the AFL Players Association Grant Hattam Trophy for excellence in journalism for the second time in 2014 and was a finalist in the 2014 Quill Awards for best sports feature writer. He was also a finalist in the 2014 Australian Sports Commission awards for his work on ‘Boots for Kids’. He is a winner of the AFL Media Association award for best news reporter and a two-time winner of Cricket Victoria’s cricket writer of the year award. Michael has covered multiple Olympics, Commonwealth Games and world championships and 15 seasons of AFL, He has also written seven books – five sports books and two true crime books.

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